On the way home yesterday, I saw a man near the subway who looked oddly familiar. I found myself trying to figure out what TV show or movie I knew him from or if he’d dated someone famous. After a while I finally got it: he’s someone I recognize from his profile picture on Twitter.
This made me think of how many more authors would be recognizable now than they ever have been before. Thanks to social media, I know what plenty of authors I’ve never met look like, even many whose books I haven’t read. Sure, some books have author photos in them, but not all, and you don’t have to be Thomas Pynchon to be fairly unknown as a person to your biggest fans.
When I worked at Barnes & Noble in college, I loved when celebrities came into the store for the fun of seeing them, sure, but I also loved seeing other people see them. Among my favorite experiences is the day a girl nearly fainted at the sight of David Lascher (who you may recall as Sabrina the Teenage Witch’s boyfriend, or, if you are a truly awesome person of a certain age, as Ted from Hey Dude). She was on vacation with her family, and you could just tell that it was everything she ever dreamed would be possible on her trip to New York City. He was lovely and gracious about it, and her face after he continued on his way was absolute bliss.
So is that our world now? I’ve definitely seen the enthusiastic “OH EM GEE, [insert author here] retweeted me!!!!” messages (you can go ahead and mentally add the appropriate emoticons), and you just need to click onto an author page on Facebook to see how engaged people are with authors as celebrities. Does that bleed over into the real world yet? Have you ever seen one of your favorite authors in an unexpected place (so not at a signing or conference)? If so, did you say hi? And authors, have you been approached in the grocery store? Would you want to be?
In a happy coincidence, there’s a Sporcle photo quiz of novelists, poets, and playwrights. Hey, it’s Friday, give it a go and let us know how you do.